Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


with JoJo Spinks on Thursday, 9 February 2023

A Squilometre defines (roughly) a square kilometre where residents can nominate any street or feature in their area for a creative project. Everyone then gets a chance to vote for the nominations and the topic with the most votes is the one that moves forward first.

The Squilometre enables the people in that area to commission their own creative activity, to be fully involved in it and to make the decisions about how it should be. Anything goes, from decorative planting, to henna workshops, from star-gazing with poetry to street dance. It is a way for artists of all kinds to embrace the communities they live in and care about and for a community to recognise the creativity in its midst, bringing art and beauty back into everyday life.

On Thursday, 9 February 2023, JoJo Spinks talked about the fascinating hidden histories that this approach had uncovered - including the Heavitree Quarry Trails, the lost Great House of Wonford and slavery compensation in Mont-le-Grand. JoJo started her talk by describing the Squilometre projects that started in 2015 and the formation of the Interwoven Productions company in 2017. Their mission is connecting people to people and people to place by exploring their heritage to bring people together. Squilometre is a made-up word to describe an area of roughly one square kilometre. It comes from grass roots up and is separate from ward boundaries and local politics. It is place-based working in neighbourhoods and uncovers unpublished resources revealing features in the landscape and also unearths personal archives.

JoJo showed an 1813 Map of East Wonford – a “Tithe map in the parish of Heavitree” which is a copy of one in the Cathedral Archives and contains field names which is of interest to local people. She talked about Lower Butts, Middle Butts and Higher Butts denoting the practice of archery training, and Butts Road leading to Wonford Village. An earlier tithe map of 1785 for Polsloe and Rollestone Barton has been invaluable for their project on Beacon Heath and Mile Lane with field names related to Mill. and features the name of Bussel.

Features in the Landscape
JoJo made no apology for appreciating the work of W.G.Hoskins and spends a lot of time looking at walls around Exeter which have been built of Heavitree stone and showed the fine example of St Mary Steps which reached the point of excellence manifested in ashlar blocks beautifully dressed. Also the wall which can be seen in Heavitree Park. JoJo went on to talk about the site of Wonford Great House, an early moated manor house dating from the 1200s (of which no trace remains near Lidl supermarket). She showed a plan of the site, the former Gardeners’ Arms which is now Birch Court. It had been her desire to obtain permission from the developers for access to the site to show schoolchildren where the moat might have been located but was unsuccessful in this quest. But the Methodist Church nearby were much more welcoming and the children were able to produce art work which was included in an interpretation board erected close to the site. In answer to various questions as to what the site may have looked like, she showed examples from published sources from Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire and Ightham in Norfolk. JoJo talked about the early burgage plots of around 1200, owned by the Lord of the Manor with residents being bounded by the Church and Lord, and references to King John granting land to the Mandevilles and the Gervase family who built the old Exe Bridge. JoJo gave examples of the previous project undertaken on an Edwardian Street (Ladysmith Road) and showed the brick patterns in the houses which produced the query as to where the pale (polychrome) bricks had come from. This proved to be from ball clay from Newton Abbot and the Candy company and featured in Park Road. The coming of the railways had made it easier to transport bricks from further away and a 1911 census entry showed that railway workers were resident in the area. An artwork project by schoolchildren showing the various tile patterns discovered, has found a permanent display at the top of the road. A West Quarter project featured the late Victorian Follets Building with six photos of the basement which is still in existence under the demolished site but not open to the general public.

Unearthing Personal Archives
Various items from individuals came to light during the different projects, including a plan of building sites in Polsloe Park, a brick, family photos and documents, a programme of a historical pageant of 1953 and another celebration of 2022 with photos taken inside the gates of Ladysmith School. These events inspired people to come together. The latest project to be launched is Victor Street in Heavitree and JoJo showed a photo loaned by Sue Jackson of her grandfather William Henry Bolt standing beside his horse and coal delivery cart, with another present-day photo of Sue standing outside the Bolt family home of No. 35. JoJo only scratched the surface of the projects so far undertaken and will be invited back in the future to reveal some more hidden histories.

Sue Jackson

JoJo Spinks is the founder of Interwoven Productions CIC, a not-for-profit company that works alongside local residents helping them explore and celebrate the heritage of their place – one street at a time. This work started in early 2015 in Heavitree and has expanded since to see a further four neighbourhood projects in Exeter and one in Exmouth, each facilitating a range of community-connecting activities for residents using local history as a bond. As an ex-archaeology tutor, teaching adults for the University of Exeter and WEA, JoJo has a long held-fascination with landscape archaeology and Hoskins-inspired approaches to local history and this shows in the way that Interwoven encourages people to explore the history of their own homes and local places.

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